Expert: Moldova Issues “Credit” Ultimatum to Russia

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Vladimir Rotar Chisinau rushes Moscow to resolve the credit line approving issue by means of mile-less-than friendly methods. The Russian credit mysterious history Like many things related to big money in Moldova the story with the Russian credit line is also gradually growing into a bunch of subtexts, conflicting data and outright speculation where even the statements of the country's top officials are not always “the ultimate truth”. Back in 2019, Igor Dodon pleased many with the news that Russia was ready to give our country a loan of as much as half a billion dollars. A little later, the head of the Cabinet Ion Chicu, who was discussing this issue with the then Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev readjusted that it was only a matter of “intentions” and not a fact taken place. But, over the following months, the Moldovan media space was flooded with a stream of conflicting information which was extremely difficult to understand. First, the president announced the allocation of money as a settled case and according to him, they should have arrived in late January. Then the cabinet members began to argue that negotiations were still ongoing and the initial amount began to sink to lower marks: first, to 300 million and now it is all about 200 million and it is not clear whether this is the first tranche or the whole loan. Several times Dodon talked about "negotiations being completed" with Moscow and generally planned to ratify the loan agreement at the beginning of the parliamentary session in February. But the funds have not yet come and the dates for their receipt which are voiced by the Moldovan authorities are constantly moving. Such a numbers and terms spread does not actually befit the seemingly “technocratic” government. It would have been much more reasonable to wait until the end of the negotiations and report them post factum. But, as you know, within the election year, the electoral logic (one way or another) prevails over any other logic such as political or economic and often over logic in principle if speaking of Moldavian realities. In addition, for Chisinau is not for the first time to “put the cart before the horse”. The same happened with gas discounts that president triumphantly announced being just in the phase of negotiations - and Moscow sometimes had to “pull” the Moldovan leader. Similar with ammunition disposal which, according to Dodon, was supposed to begin almost last year. Pressure instead of friendly steps It is worth paying attention to the fact that when the loan plot just appeared, the then Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak clearly spoke of the need for a “detailed offer” of Chisinau on the terms and conditions of return of funds. That is, it was immediately clear that for no reason Moscow would give no money and serious technical work was ahead with the preparation of all the necessary justifications which was clearly not a matter of one month. Whether the Moldovan government made that very needed preparation is a big question. For its part, Russia prefers not to highlight this topic in the media once again and all we have is the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko’s recent stating that the issue of credit is “being solved”. In addition to doing all the preparatory work Moscow probably wants to see from Chisinau some friendly steps in different areas. The Russian ambassador to RM Oleg Vasnetsov subtly hinted at this and recalled in an interview with Moldovan Sputnik, the presence of “serious baggage of problems” as the unclear status of the Russian language and the “discriminatory” position of the Russian media. However, the country's leadership absolutely not used to get refusals in Moscow recently, prefers to act in a different way and even goes for a certain blackmail. For example, flirts with Minsk talking about attracting Belarusian investment and companies in the construction of infrastructure. The symbolism of such a maneuver is easy to understand - because right now there is a “resource war” between Russia and Belarus and Minsk has begun a noticeable drift to the West. In addition, recently appeared the information about a certain one hundred millionth Hungarian loan. In addition to showing the existence of supposedly alternative options for obtaining money Chisinau began to demonstrate its dissatisfaction with the delay in credit and other methods much more sensitive for Moscow. The aggravated situation in the Transdniestrian settlement may be connected with this. It seemed to many that, in the light of the “pro-Russian” president in power, one could expect a breakthrough in the dialogue between Chisinau and Tiraspol or at least a solution to all the current contradictions, or at the very least - the start of political negotiations. In reality, the relationship between the two banks is at the minimum point over the past few years: existing problems are not resolved and even local conflicts arise. Moreover, Chisinau makes it clear that the recent “transport war” can only become a seed for more acute and protracted conflicts in other areas. In addition to the deterioration of the situation in the Transdniestrian direction Chisinau has resumed (for now informational) pressure on the military presence of the Russian Federation in the country. Thus, behind the scandal about the role of the 14th Army in the conflict on the Dniester, somehow, the new calls to withdraw Russian troops and transform the peacekeeping operation into a civilian mission got lost even before the ending of negotiations on the settlement of the Transdniestrian issue. Chisinau's dangerous tactics In early February, Finance Minister Sergiu Puscuta said that if Moscow does not provide “good conditions” for the credit line then Chisinau will refuse these funds. Of course, this is cunning. Russian money is in fact, the cornerstone in the campaign strategy of Igor Dodon where vast construction detains the key place. So the funds are needed right now since the start of the new variation of “Good Roads” implementation itself is planned for spring and therefore, there is no time left. Moreover, Chisinau needs this loan on the most favorable conditions that would correspond or even be better than those provided by Western donors. This would give a serious trump card against any criticism of the opposition and would mitigate the damage from the actual freezing of traditional sources of credit assistance. The combination of all these factors forces the Moldovan authorities to switch from information pressure on Moscow to more practical actions in the hope of speeding up the process somehow. It is clear that the leadership of the RM rushed to make their own statements over the past months that the money is already practically in the Moldovan budget. In the current situation, it seems that the tactics of pressure are not very wise especially when there is the Minsk example where the Kremlin was not afraid to act harshly. And this is, after all, the closest Russian ally and partner – not as the integrating into Europe Moldova, that they will make no bones about if necessary.